Unless you’ve been living on a desert island in the mid-Pacific for the past few months (actually, that sounds pretty good!), you’ve probably heard something about a new Microsoft OS called Windows 7. By all accounts, this OS looks set to be a huge catalyst for Desktop Virtualization and the adoption of Citrix XenDesktop for Knowledge and Power Users. So not only will companies be looking to upgrade their existing physical PCs to this wonderful new OS, but the availability of Win7 will inevitably bring about a re-assessment of the corporate desktop estate. That re-assessment will of course consider the prospect of lowering management costs by moving from physical machines to a virtual desktop environment; Win7 seems much more ‘VDI friendly’ than any of its predecessors.

So….a company-wide OS upgrade is coming…. A migration from physical to Citrix XenDesktop is also coming…….

You might be thinking a couple of things about this….
1. “Will I see my family again?”
2. “I want to make this upgrade really work. I’m not going to have any support calls on this and I’m going to use this to reduce my costs….”

Well, done correctly – of course you will see your family again, in fact with the reduction in desktop management requirements you should actually see them even more!

Let’s break the problem down into two parts; 1. upgrading to Win7 on the physical PC, and 2. the migration to a virtual Win7 environment.

1. Upgrading to Win7 on the physical PC

Win7 is quite different to XP. You may very well have problems running legacy or homegrown XP apps on Win7. In order to solve this problem, you may wish to consider leveraging application virtualizing and streaming these troublesome apps rather than wait for upgrades from multiple app vendors.

Another problem you’ll have is the user profile data and desktop setup scripts. It’s highly unlikely that anything the user has done to the XP or Vista machine to personalize it (at both the OS and the application level) will be 100% compatible with the new Win7 desktop. This is because XP uses a completely different User Profile format and structure to that of Win7, meaning it is not as simple as re-using their old profiles on the new OS. The result? All your upgraded employees have to re-personalize their desktop. I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot to personalize my desktop and applications over the years. I have all my apps just the way I want them, my email signature and rules are set just right and there’s probably a hundred other settings I’ve forgotten about and wouldn’t know how to re-do on a new OS. What a great start to my Win7 experience….a bland, impersonal machine. By the way, the same thing goes for policy settings, such as printer and file drive access as well as other ‘logon processes’. So, one of the most important considerations in your Win7 migration is to retain all this user-specific information (we call it the “user personality”) from the existing desktop and simply ‘inject’ this back into the new Win7 desktop following upgrade to ensure a seamless experience to the user.

2. Migrating from an XP PC to a Win7 virtual desktop

Rather than just upgrading physical PCs, you might want to take this opportunity to move employees over to a virtual environment. Not only does this provide the user with a nice, new Win7 desktop, it will also provide huge desktop management cost reduction opportunities; no need to upgrade the desktop machine with hardware capable of running the new OS (as this can now be re-purposed as a ‘thin client’), centralized management of desktops, monitoring of the environment to reduce support costs etc . However, the real big opportunity to reduce costs here lies in the use of a single, standardized and leveraged Win7 desktop image across the entire company. Imagine creating ONE standardized, corporate Win7 desktop (possibly with a selection of baseline corporate apps such as Outlook and IE) and to have this freshly provisioned to each employee as they require it. When the employee goes home, the desktop is deleted. No need to store and manage lots of desktops….instead they’re delivered on an ‘as-needed’ basis. Citrix technologies provide an ideal solution to enable such an environment.

However, this standard Win7 image is by no means personal to the user – not if it’s being used by thousands or tens of thousands of employees! This is where the user personality comes in. By centrally managing the user personality independent of this standard Win7 desktop, it can then be applied to the desktop when needed. So you now have a low cost, standard Win7 estate, with employees experiencing the same working environment as when they were using their desktop PC. Sound like heaven? This is in fact a reality, and being done to great success today – check out Daniel Fellers ‘Ask the Architect’ and podcast pages within the Citrix Community site. Daniel interviews Sandy Kingdon from CSC and together they discuss how they by managing the user personalization separate from the desktop CSC and Citrix + User Environment Management has enabled the personalization of thousands of desktops for geographically dispersed users from just a minimal set of desktop component images.

Win7 will be a game-changing event in the corporate desktop world. It will essentially be the catalyst to a whole new way of looking at and managing the desktop – and what we know to be true is that the user aspect of the corporate PC must now be treated as a separate entity unto itself – enabling the business tools (apps and OS) to be standardized and their delivery automated, leading to huge reductions in cost (management, storage, licensing) and productive employees.

Here are some of the things I believe you must consider as part of your Win7 migration. Remember all these things are possible today.

  • Low cost, low risk migration to Win7 on your physical PCs
    Seamlessly decouple all aspects of the user from the employees existing PC (XP, Vista), and reapply this data into a fresh, standard Win7 PC. The employee sees no change to the personal settings post-upgrade.
  • Eliminate the costs associated with using legacy scripts and bloated user profiles
    Your Win7 migration affords the opportunity to replace outdated and management-intensive methods to manage the user experience on the desktop. Complex, often large login scripts can be replaced and selectively executed dependent on the user needs. Maintenance is reduced, as is the user logon time.
  • Low cost, low risk migration to Win7 in a virtual desktop environment
    Decouple the user personality from the existing PC and store this independent of the desktop. The user can then be redirected to a low cost, standard, virtualized Win7 image, where their personality is applied on-demand. A low-cost physical-to-“Win7 virtual” migration process, with the employee seeing no change to their PC experience.
  • Ensure seamless user experience in multi-OS desktop estate
    Regardless of whether your desktop estate is a mix of XP, Vista or Win7, the same centralized, independent user personality is able to seamlessly ‘roam’ across each OS version. This enables you to implement Win7 into your desktop estate gradually, without having to create multiple user profiles for each OS version.
  • Establish lowest cost Win7 desktop environment through standardized, personalized desktop images
    Desktop management and storage costs can be reduced significantly by standardizing on your Win7 corporate image. By having one standard Win7 desktop provided to employees on-demand, desktop management becomes much easier and less risky. Including personality management into this scenario enables this standard desktop to be dynamically personalized on-access, providing the employee with their familiar PC-type experience.
  • Personalize virtualized applications
    Many legacy, home grown and XP-based applications are unsuitable for use in a Win7 environment, making application virtualization a necessity. Unless the company is prepared to virtualize each individual employee’s applications, virtualized applications must be standard and therefore non-personal in nature. Applications must be automatically configured for each specific user and/or connecting device, and automatically personalized to the user based on their personality. You can now accelerate the Win7 roll-out since incompatible applications are virtualized, yet still remain personal to the employee.
  • Quickly and easily scale Win7 implementation with no impact to user experience
    The user is provided with a consistent personal experience across multiple client OS versions, multiple delivery technologies, multiple accessing devices and accommodates the employee context (e.g. security level, accessing location etc).
  • Ensure quality user experience as your Win7 implementation scales through visibility and remediation
    Migration to Win7 in your organization is a significant and on-going event. Adherence to SLAs and reducing support loads are paramount during this process. In addition to ensuring a consistent and personalized user experience during the Win7 migration process, you must also provide desktop optimization and remediation through reporting, monitoring and auditing of the user personality.

Win7 is coming, and this is a great time to use Citrix Virtualization Technologies to accomodate the migration, centralize desktop management and reduce associated costs.. all while ensuring the best user experience.